Google on Wednesday announced widespread changes to the licensing terms of its Android mobile operating system, in a bid to boost its adoption in emerging markets like India.
The company said it will allow device makers to use Google’s Play Store and other apps on their devices even if they don’t ship with Google’s suite of apps and services. Google will also allow device makers to build devices that run forked versions of Android, and still bundle Play Store and Google Play Services with them.
In addition, Google said it will permit device makers to use third-party app stores and billing systems on their devices. This will be a big change for the company, which has hitherto required device makers to use only its own Google Play Store and billing system on Android devices.
Google said the changes are aimed at making Android “more flexible for a wider range of global partners”. The company also said the changes will “allow Android to scale even further, particularly in emerging markets”.
“Today, we’re announcing a number of changes to the Android agreements that will enable more innovation and choice, while still ensuring Android remains free and open,” said Hiroshi Lockheimer, Senior Vice President of Android, Chrome OS and Play, in a blog post.
One of the key changes that Google is making is to the so-called “compatibility” clause of the Android agreements. This clause has long been a bone of contention for many device makers, who have felt it constrains their ability to innovate on Android.
Under the new agreements, device makers will be able to build non-compatible, or “custom” versions of Android, without fear of being shut out of the Google Play ecosystem. They will also be able to use Google Play Services on forked versions of Android. However, they will not be able to ship devices with Google Play Services pre-installed unless the device is certified by Google.
Google is also changing its policies around billing and in-app purchases. Until now, Google has required that device makers use only its own Google Play Store and billing system for in-app purchases.
Under the new policies, device makers will be able to use third-party app stores and billing systems on their devices. This will be a big boon for companies like Amazon, which has long had its own app store and billing system for Android devices.
The changes announced by Google today are part of a wider effort by the company to make Android more attractive to partners in emerging markets. In the past year, Google has made a number of changes to Android that are aimed at making it more palatable to partners in these markets.
For example, Google has introduced a new “Go edition” of Android that is optimized for devices with low specifications. The company has also made changes to the way Android is distributed in these markets, making it available through the Google Play Store instead of through third-party app stores.